The 2016-17 season has not gotten off to the start the Arizona Coyotes were hoping for. They find themselves in the basement of the Western Conference. Their first game of December is against the Los Angeles Kings, a tough task for a team of any skill level.
So will the Coyotes continue their climb out of the Western Conference’s lowest position?
View From L.A.
For more on the Los Angeles Kings, check out Jewels From the Crown
Los Angeles has fared far better this season defensively but has its own offensive issues to deal with. The Kings are league-average in scoring and near the very bottom of the league on the power play. They recently went 0-4 against a mediocre Bruins hockey team the and gave up a short hander. Peter Budaj has played magnificently in goal, but the offense in front of him needs to do more.
LA is in contention once again in the Western Conference's Pacific Division thanks to a five-game win streak at the end of November that was cut short by the San Jose Sharks last night. They may no longer be looked at as “the Warriors of the NHL,” but are just one point behind Edmonton for the last guaranteed playoff spot (a sentence we can’t believe we’re typing), but are 3-7-1 away from the Staples Center this year, which is to Arizona’s advantage.
View From Arizona
Arizona is finding things hard on both ends of the ice right now, ranking in the bottom portion of the league in goals for, goals allowed and special teams production. It is why the Coyotes also have one of the worst goal differentials in the NHL heading into December.
In less than two months of action, they have already accumulated two different losing streaks of at least four games. The end of November has been more kind than any other time, though, so perhaps a turnaround is underway. Arizona has taken points in its last three games, and while they haven’t necessarily looked great in any of those games (more on that next), they are still finding ways to steal points.
- Where will Coyotes offense come from? -Arizona ranks dead last in Fenwick For Percentage and 29th out of 30 teams in Corsi For. The Coyotes are simply not getting enough shots off, whether they end up on-goal or not. Radim Vrbata needs more help.
- Can the Kings find road success? -Los Angeles has been excellent at home, with one of the best home records in the entire NHL, but spotty on the road. It lost four straight road games in mid-November and has just three wins outside of LA all season. Arizona is hardly a home powerhouse, though. This could be what the Kings need to get back on track in enemy territory.
- Can the Coyotes Finally Improve their penalty kill? -A season ago the Coyotes negated just 77.3 percent of their penalties, good for third-worst in the NHL. So far this season they haven't been any better, even with the additions of veteran defenders Alex Goligoski and Luke Schenn. It's time for the penalty kill unit to step-up.
Players to Watch
Arizona - Max Domi- The 21-year-old leads Arizona in Corsi For Percentage. He is getting plenty of shots off. If his shooting percentage picks up, Domi will become the best scorer on this team.
Los Angeles - Anze Kopitar- The Kings' star just returned from an upper-body injury a few games ago and has yet to find his form. This year, he has just two goals on 41 shots. His career shooting percentage is 12.3.
Los Angeles has Jonathan Quick out indefinitely. Brayden McNabb remains out with coach Darryl Sutter saying a return within the next month is realistic. Andy Andreoff has been on injured reserve to repair a damaged thumb but resumed skating with his teammates.
Brad Richardson is out for the foreseeable future, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson is day-to-day, but is expected to play tonight. Louis Domingue could return as backup goalie as well.
Tonight’s game starts at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and listen on 92.3 FM.